It’s gimmick match overload time again - but it’s not on a TNA show, as WWE give us the annual extreme rules pay-per-view that used to belong to ECW - One Night Stand, with Triple H defending his WWE title against Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match, and the Undertaker and Edge fighting it out over the vacant World title in a TLC match. All of the usual commentators are there, including The Adamle, so it’s straight on to the action.
The show begins with Jeff Hardy facing Umaga in a falls count anywhere match, which for me is a very good way to start the show. As expected, they didn’t stay in the ring very long, after Hardy pulled the top rope down as the Samoan charged towards him. We then got the obligatory brawl through the fans, which led them to the hallways, where Hardy connected with a clothesline by sliding down a banister. After this they took their brawl outside to the car park, which saw them ram each other into trucks. Soon, Hardy started to climb to the top of a truck. Umaga followed, but was soon kicked down. Hardy followed him down seconds later, coming down on Umaga with a swanton from the top of the truck - although we didn’t actually see either man land on the ground. A three count later and Hardy was victorious. A very good match here with some rather unique spots. The rest of the show has a lot to live up to.
ECW’s only match of the night follows, a Singapore cane match featuring C.M. Punk, Chavo Guerrero, Tommy Dreamer, John Morrison and the Big Show, former ECW Champions all of them. This one started with the Big Show throwing everyone around as if they were rag dolls, before the other four men in the match ganged up on him and took him down, before they each grabbed a cane for themselves to take him out completely. Then they took care of each other, and when the big guy got back to his feet, having taken care of Morrison’s partner the Miz, he found himself with a face full of steel steps after Morrison hit him in the knee, which resulted in a cut near his left eye. But as the others continued to fight, the Big Show recovered, grabbed a rubbish bin full of canes, and cleaned house, eventually getting the pin on Dreamer after a choke slam and another cane shot, earning a title shot against Kane. Another very good match, and it’s good to see that the Big Show is once again being treated as a monster.
Next up, the first blood match between old rivals John Cena and John Bradshaw Layfield. As was expected with these two, this was nothing more than a brawl, with very little actual wrestling as they basically just punched and kick each other around the ring and ringside area. They also heat each other with chairs and microphones, as well as being rammed into the ring posts. But no matter what he tried, JBL just couldn’t make Cena bleed. And it was the same for Cena as well. Cena’s offence didn’t last long though, and he soon found himself tied up in the ropes as JBL brought a whip into the ring. He didn’t get to use it though, as he kicked his opponent in the gut, then used the chain that JBL had introduced moments earlier to apply a unique version of the STFU. Seconds later JBL began bleeding from the mouth, and the referee called a halt to the action. Nothing quite like a good old fashioned brawl now and again.
Diva action follows, with Beth Phoenix taking on Melina in an I quit match. Diva matches seem to have improved in recent months, thanks in part to their TNA Knockout counterparts, and this was another case of this. While it didn’t feature any fancy high spots, it did feature great wrestling as each diva tried for submission, in order to get their opponent to say those magic words. Both girls were impressive here, especially Melina. In the end the Glamazon came out on top with a rather unique submission hold that folded Melina up like an accordion. Melina had no choice but to say I quit. So why can’t women’s wrestling be this good all the time in WWE?
The fall-out from Ric Flair’s retirement continues with Shawn Michaels facing Batista in a stretcher match. This one would have a lot to live up to following their previous encounter at Backlash a couple of months ago, and the match stipulation for this one just added to the growing tension between these two. Good exchanges in the ring was matched with some rather inventive uses of the stretchers at ringside. Both wrestlers had their opponent on the stretchers a number of times, but the interesting intervention from Chris Jericho, in which he pleaded with Michaels to show more heart after Batista put him on the stretcher certainly changed the manner that this match was contested. The Animal up the aggression, and before taking Michaels down with a second Batista bomb, he said “I don’t love you, and I’m not sorry.” Batista then placed Michaels on the stretcher, and as he wheeled him up the aisle to the finishing line, Jericho returned to try to urge Michaels on again. It was then that Batista inflicted more punishment with a spine buster on the steel steps, before placing Michaels on the stretcher again and pushing him over the finishing line. Well, this one started out slowly, but the drama grew throughout, and the intervention from Jericho added to that drama, which made for a great match. Excellent stuff here.
Raw main event time, with Randy Orton challenging Triple H for the WWE title in a last man standing match. This match will probably be remembered for one thing, and we’ll get to that in due course. These two took it to each other as soon as the match began, and it’s somewhat ironic that Triple H focused his early attack on Orton’s left arm, throwing him into the steel steps, and then, back in the ring, throwing him into the ring post twice. The action then got hardcore, as they fought around the ring, on the ECW announce table, and with the steel ring steps. If an inanimate object deserved overtime pay for this show, then those steps do. Orton pulled out all the stops, even choking Triple H with an electrical cord, but he still couldn’t put the Game away. Then, it happened. As Triple H struggled to his feet, Orton went for the RKO, which Triple H countered by throwing him over the top rope. Orton landed hard on the floor, and you could see him immediately tell the referee that he’d broken his collarbone. But despite the injury, the match continued, until Triple H clobbered Orton with his trusty sledgehammer, putting Orton down for the ten count, and giving Triple H the title retaining win. A good match, up until the unfortunate injury to Orton. Whether Triple H knew about the injury is a matter for debate, but surely they could have brought the sledgehammer spot in a few moments earlier so Orton could get the medical attention he needed.
Smackdown main event time, with Edge facing the Undertaker for the vacant World title in a TLC match. But this one had a extra stipulation - if the Undertaker lost, he was gone from the WWE, history. A brutal match to end the show, with both men using all of the implements available to them to beat the hell out of each other. We got bumps through tables, massive chair shots, and good use of the ladders in what was a very good match. Indeed, the sickest of the bumps came when the Undertaker choke slammed Edge onto a ladder from the ring apron. Of course, we got an appearance from Hawkins and Ryder, who got choke slammed through tables for their troubles, before Edge himself got power bombed through two tables as he was climbing the ladder. Then the interference of Chavo Guerrero and Bam Neeley failed, before the Undertaker took the sickest bump of the night. As he climbed the ladder to claim the belt, Edge recovered enough to push the ladder down, which sent the dead man flying out of the ring and crashing through four tables. Seconds later Edge climbed to the top of the ladder to win the belt and to send the Undertaker packing. This was definitely the match of the night, full of high drama and high tension between two men who pulled out all the stops to achieve the ultimate goal. Is this the last we’ll see of the Undertaker? I doubt it, but the WWE will be a poorer place until his eventual return.
In conclusion - now this is how gimmick matches should be done. Unlike their TNA counterparts, WWE don’t overload their matches with overcomplicated stipulations or try merging two gimmick matches into one. And they don’t do it too often on pay-per-view. One Night Stand may well become one of the most popular WWE shows in the next few years if they don’t overdo the idea or the gimmicks. I really enjoyed this show, Great matches throughout, topped off with a great and brutal TLC match and an emotional farewell from the Undertaker. Of course, the only downside will be Orton’s injury, and I wish him a speedy recovery. But in all, the 2008 version of One Night Stand was great, and comes highly recommended.